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DURHAM, N.C. – For the third time in four seasons, the Fordham men's soccer team is once again in the NCAA Championship. After receiving the Atlantic 10's automatic bid in 2014 and 2016, the Rams received an at-large berth for the first time in program history, after finishing the year at 12-5-2 overall with an NCAA RPI ranking of 26. However, unlike 2014 and 2016, the Rams got a monkey off their back, getting the program's first-ever NCAA win on Thursday night by defeating St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-2, in overtime at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field.
In the second round, Fordham pulled off another victory, defeating #11 seed Virginia, 1-0, at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville. Eric Ohlendorf scored in the 83rd minute on a cross from Jannik Loebe for the only goal of the game, while Rashid Nuhu made five saves for his 11th shutout of the season.
The Rams continue their NCAA journey on Saturday at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C., as Fordham will face #6 seed Duke at 6:00 PM. Fordham is familiar with the Blue Devils, having already played them this season at Duke's John Rennie Nike Invitational, where Duke came away with a 3-0 win. It is the only game that Fordham has allowed three goals all season.
The Blue Devils enter Saturday's match at 13-4-2 on the season, after finishing third in the RPI rankings. In the final United Soccer Coaches Poll, the Blue Devils ranked #14 in the country, while also being #14 in the College Soccer News Poll. Duke also received an at-large berth into the NCAA Championship after falling to Clemson in the ACC Championship quarterfinal, 1-0. After an opening round bye, Duke defeated FIU, 2-1, on Sunday to advance to the round of 16.
The Blue Devils are led by Brian White, who leads the team with nine goals and 20 points on the season, while Daniele Proch has five goals and 12 points on the year. White scored twice in the earlier meeting with Fordham this season, while Proch had the other tally. Will Pulisic has played every second in net for Duke this season, posting a 0.97 goals against average and seven shutouts. He had one save in the shutout win over Fordham back in August.
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the third meeting between Fordham and Duke, with the Blue Devils having won the prior two meetings. The first meeting was the 1989 season opener, where Duke won a 2-1 contest at the Wolfpack Classic in Raleigh, North Carolina, while the second was game two of this season on August 27th, a 3-0 win for Duke.
LAST TIME OUT: Fordham's Eric Ohlendorf headed in a cross from Jannik Loebe in the 83rd minute, while Rashid Nuhu made five saves in net, as the Rams upset the #11 seed Virginia Cavaliers, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. The win moved Fordham (14-5-2) into the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, while also setting a new program record for wins in a season with 14, breaking the mark of 13, set in 1985.
The lone goal of the game came on a Rams' counterattack, where the ball found Jannik Loebe for a shot which was stopped by Virginia's Jeff Caldwell. Loebe got back the rebound and crossed the ball in front to Eric Ohlendorf for the header into the right side of goal for his first goal of the season.
The Rams played an excellent defensive game, limiting the Cavaliers to five shots on goal, which goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu handled all five for his 11th shutout of the season.
The best chance for the Cavaliers came off the boot of Edward Opoku in the second half, from the top of the six-yard box, but Nuhu was right there for the denial on the doorstep.
OHLENDORF NAMED TO COLLEGE SOCCER NEWS NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK (11/20): Fordham senior midfielder Eric Ohlendorf became the third Ram this season to be named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week, it was announced on November 20th. He joins Jacob Bohm and Jannik Loebe as previous Fordham players honored this year. Ohlendorf picked a prime opportunity to score his first goal of the season on Sunday, as he headed home a Loebe cross for the game-winning goal in Fordham's 1-0 win over #11 seed Virginia in Charlottesville.
CARDIAC RAMS: When the game gets into crunch time, the Rams have proven up to the task. Fordham has scored 22 of its 30 goals scored in the second half or later, while allowing just nine to opponents.
RARIFIED COMPANY: The Atlantic 10 Conference has had a number of fine players come through the league, which include former U.S. National Team members Alexi Lalas, Geoff Cameron, and Fordham's own John Wolyniec. However, none of them can say they made fourth straight Atlantic 10 All-Championship teams, where current Ram Jannik Loebe can. Loebe became only the second Atlantic 10 player to be named to the Atlantic 10 All-Championship team four times, joining Rhode Island's Nicholas McCreath (1998-2001). He scored in all four Atlantic 10 Championships from 2014 to 2017, which included, scoring the game-winning goal in the 2014 Atlantic 10 Championship game against Rhode Island and in the 2017 A-10 quarterfinals against Dayton.
TURNING DEFENSE INTO OFFENSE: Most people give a lot of the credit for the Rams' success to how the team defends, but the same group that defends is also just as responsible for the Rams' offensive success. Out of the Rams' primary defenders, Matthew Lewis, Joergen Oland, Vincenzo Zuccala, Christopher Bazzini, and Owen Lawrence, the group has contributed 10 goals and nine assists this season with goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu also adding an assist.
Oland leads the group with five goals, while Bazzini has three goals with Lewis having the other two. Lewis has a group-best four assists with Zuccala and Lawrence each having a pair of helpers. Bazzini and Nuhu round out the assist category with one each.
TEAM RECORD SET, ONE WITHIN REACH, & AN ATHLETIC PROGRAM MILESTONE: With the win over Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Championship, the Rams have reached the 14-win plateau setting a new school. The previous record of 13 was set in 1985. Fordham is also one team shutout shy of the 1987 record of 12.
By advancing to the round of 16, the Rams have also hit a historic milestone for Fordham Athletics as a whole, as the men's soccer team, joins the 1970-71 men's basketball team and the 1978-79 women's basketball team as the only varsity teams to reach the round of 16 in the national championship tournament. (NCAA Championship for the 1970-71 men's basketball team; AIAW Championship for the 1978-79 women's basketball team)
WHO'S NEXT: If the Rams win on Saturday, the Rams will face the winner of #3 North Carolina and SMU next weekend.